The FBI is now backing the CIA’s assessment that Russian hackers intervened to tilt the US election in favor of President-elect Donald Trump as they breached American political institutions resulting in the theft of a trove of sensitive communications, The Washington Post has reported.
FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election, officials disclosed to the Post.
President Barak Obama has already said that Russian President Vladimir Putin must have been aware of the cyber attacks. “Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin knowing about it. This happened at the highest levels of the Russian government.” Obama has said adding that he was awaiting a complete review of the matter by intelligence and national security officials before he left office next month.
Both Russia and Trump have rejected the charge. “I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” his first Sunday news-show appearance since the Nov. 8 election. “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. . . . No, I don’t believe it at all.”
Significantly, the FBI had indicated as recently as on Monday that the CIA’s assessment – delivered earlier this month to some members of Congress – may prove accurate but lacked the definitive evidence necessary for the agency to reach such a conclusion.
That changed, the official said, after the high-level meetings resulted in a consensus on Russia’s motive, a conclusion that so far has been flatly rejected by Trump and has roiled the capital’s political establishment.
On Friday, the CIA Director John Brennan sent a message to the agency’s workforce which read: “Earlier this week, I met separately with FBI [Director] James Comey and DNI Jim Clapper, and there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election.”
Russia was publicly identified in October as having breached the systems of the Democratic National Committee, resulting in theft of a trove of sensitive communications.
Those communications were later provided to WikiLeaks and DCLeaks, which published the information in the months and weeks leading up to the general election.
The leaks prompted the resignation of Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the eve of the party’s national convention in July. The leaks also led supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders to protest that the Democratic primaries were rigged against him.
Confident of Russia’s role in the Presidential election, the US security agencies are now assessing Russia’s objective in helping Trump’s victory: Was Russia attempting to damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s ability to govern? Was it retaliation against Clinton for her past criticism of Russian elections? Was it intended to undermine confidence in the American political system? Or was it a combination of all? The official told the Post that FBI continued to weigh those and other options. But in the end, the collective effect of the Russian action was to assist Trump.
In the closed-door Senate briefing, CIA officials said it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was one of Russia’s goals, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
At a “thank you” event on Thursday night with some of her top campaign donors and fundraisers, Clinton said she believed Russian-backed hackers went after her campaign because of a personal grudge that Putin had against her.
Putin had blamed Clinton for fomenting mass protests in Russia after the disputed 2011 parliamentary elections that challenged his rule. Putin said Clinton, then secretary of state, had “sent a signal” to protesters by labeling the elections “neither free nor fair.”